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secrets in the fire

Sofia’s story is set in Mozambique, where civil war is raging. villages are set alight and no one, not even the dogs, are spared. As rebels are given arms, it is civillians such as children like Sofia,who suffer the sharp blade of war. Sofia survived the attrocities, yet experienced such trauma that no child should have to endure. Set against the natural innoncence of a child’s sense of what is just and unjust-the questions -and answers Sofia asks bring us back to the powerful inner beliefs that children have.

This book has so much to offer for the classroom. Children can learn about and discuss children’s rights and consider what it means to be a global citizen in today’s world. I will be using this book in my Year 6 class during our topic on WW2 as our daily class story-to highlight the universal experiences of children in war. Young readers will be drawn to this story because of the vivid picture it creates of a violent, war-torn world which they know exists but which they struggle to even imagine.

This book presents the stark reality of what life can be like for young people growing up in a country where extreme poverty and bloody wars make their lives into a constant struggle for survival. Given that young people today are constantly bombarded with images and reports from the media of the horrific things going on in the world, it is oftentimes helpful to them to be able to put things into a context with which they can identify.

By reading an account of a child like themselves and seeing through her eyes how these unimaginable horrors affect her so directly and so terribly, it makes the realities of war more real to them than any far-away news broadcast ever could. On the flip side of the coin, however, this book is not for every 9 to 13-year-old reader, and adults should take care to know the children to whom they recommend this book.

Sensitive youngsters would undoubtedly find the graphic depictions of both the bandits destroying the village early on in the story, and the landmine explosion later on, to be more than a little disturbing. In any case, Secrets in the Fire is certainly a book that deserves a place on library shelves. It could prove to be a valuable tool for helping young people to recognize the violence and brutality that the world holds for many of its people.

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